Kentucky Earns Sweep of No. 25 Lady Vols, First Since 1995

Sept. 26, 2012

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Behind unbelievable defense and brilliant offensive execution which saw the University of Kentucky volleyball team hit at a .320 clip, UK swept the No. 25 Tennessee Lady Volunteers, 3-0 (25-15, 25-21, 25-20) for the first time since 1995 in front of 1,726 fans at Memorial Coliseum and a national television audience.

"The one thing I knew is we needed to step up and play at the level we're capable of playing to beat that team (Tennessee) because it's a very talented team," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "This group was really focused. I'm really proud of the way they were focused in game three even being up 2-0. That's a sign of a good team and a step forward and progress for us. We've got to keep moving."

With the win, UK improves to 8-6 overall, while holding a 2-2 record within Southeastern Conference play. Tennessee drops to 8-6 and 2-3 in league action.

UK was led by dynamic performances from juniors Whitney Billings and Alexandra Morgan. The two combined for 19 kills without committing a single error. Billings also registered team highs in digs (16) and blocks (4).

Sophomore Lauren O'Conner notched a team-best 11 kills, with freshman Sara Schwarzwalder contributing six. Senior setter Christine Hartmann passed out 35 assists while also adding a team-high four rejections.

Senior libero Stephanie Klefot logged 13 digs with junior Jessi Greenberg and sophomore Jackie Napper both adding seven.

The Wildcats began the match with stifling defense and then improved offensively in every set raising both their total number of kills and hitting percentage. UK charted 42 kills on a sizzling .320 hitting percentage for the match with four players charting above .300 clips.

Kentucky dominated the opening set, racing out to an early 12-7 lead and never trailed. The Wildcats as a team tallied three aces, nine kills and five blocks. The Lady Vols had a tough time breaking the UK defense, as UT only recorded seven kills in the frame. The opening-stanza win was the eighth of the season, as UK pushed its record to 6-1 when collecting the first set win.

In the second set, Tennessee opened up to the early lead, but UK responded with a run before the media timeout to close the gap to 15-14. A 5-2 run after the break pushed the Wildcats into the lead and forced Tennessee to call its first timeout of the set. The lead of 19-16 would be the Cats' largest of the set as the two battled point-for-point down the stretch.

After a handful of senior Ashley Frazier serves forced UT to call another timeout, UK went on a 6-2 run to close the set out at 25-21 as the Blue and White took a 2-0 advantage into the locker room. In the opening two frames, UK hit .295 as a team, while forcing the Lady Vols to hit at a microscopic .060. Billings led the way for Kentucky in the first two stanzas, hitting at a .583 clip while tallying seven kills.

The third set saw much of the same from Kentucky, as the Wildcats held the lead from start to finish, closing out the match with a 25-20 third-set win. The sweep was only the second all season suffered by UT, as Kentucky recorded its fourth sweep of an opponent during the 2012 campaign.

Kentucky will return to SEC action Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. ET as the Auburn Tigers will pay visit to Lexington. The game can be seen live on with Dick Gabriel and Mandy Robbe calling the action.

UK Coach Craig Skinner Quotes

On sweeping Tennessee for the first time since 1995 ...
"I don't know. That's probably more media stuff that what I even think about. I had no idea. The one thing I knew is we needed to step up and play at the level we're playing to beat that team because it's a very talented team. This group was really focused. I'm really proud of the way they were focused after game 2 even being up 2-0. That's a sign of a good team and a step forward and progress for us. We've got to keep moving."

On the difference in the team since winning at Texas A&M ...
"I just saw a presence about us that we were going to play free and go for it and a confidence. A lot of that had to do with our seniors. They definitely wanted to feel that again and I think they did some soul-searching over the weekend and brought it to practice the last couple days. It was definitely evident tonight."

On the play of Whitney Billings ...
"I haven't seen her this focused in a long time and I think she did not feel good about a couple matches early in the season, one of them being Florida when she struggled. I think she's made a commitment, whether she's playing good or bad, to having the same type of mentality and aggressiveness she has right now."

On the crowd of 1,726 in Memorial Coliseum ...
"Boy, they were juiced tonight. I actually heard them tonight. I don't usually hear the crowd. I'm pretty into what's going on in the match, but I love the energy they gave us. That was some great energy. There were several different groups of people leading the charge, so that was a great environment. I'm glad to see that on national TV."

On Kentucky's defense ...
"Our defense was awfully good tonight. That's something we knew at the beginning of the year that we could be exceptional at and it went away for a while. The last couple matches, I've seen some blocking defense that is pretty high level and something we have to have throughout the rest of the year."

On UK's offensive effort ...
"The nice thing was balance too. We got a lot of people involved at different times. And Christine does a nice job of feeling who's available and who has one blocker. The other thing was we got blocked a couple times and the next point was usually a kill. That's a sign of confidence. Again, it's a step forward and something we have to build on. Auburn's definitely a good team."

On Billings' and Alexandra Morgan's involvement offensively ...
"The game plan was to be balanced because Tennessee is probably the most physical team in the league so we have to make sure we're not just setting a couple people. We got them going early, went away from them and came back to them. That's definitely a way to keep big, physical blockers off balance."